Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-09) released the following statement after co-sponsoring H.R. 6140, the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act. The bill preserves the original intent of the work requirements in the 1996 welfare reform law, which mandates that able-bodied adults should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving welfare aid. Last week, the Obama Administration announced it would circumvent the legislative process and violate the 1996 welfare reform law by allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to ignore the work requirements in the law. The bi-partisan welfare reform law has been successful, substantially decreasing overall poverty and child poverty in America.
"It's time we stopped the Obama Administration's practice of legislating through executive fiat dead in its tracks. Unilaterally changing the bipartisan welfare reform law without going through Congress is a complete violation of our system of checks and balances. The degree to which the Obama Administration will ignore the law of the land or circumvent the legislative process, as determined by our Constitution, is truly alarming. If the President doesn't like a law, he ignores it. If he can't get what he wants from Congress, President Obama rules by decree."
The work requirements in the 1996 welfare reform law are part of a program called "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families" (TANF). The Obama Administration issued a new directive stating that TANF work requirements could be avoided through a legal device called a "section 1115 waiver authority" under the Social Security law. Section 1115 lets the Department of Health and Human Services waive only parts of the law listed in section 1115 itself. However, the TANF work provisions are not listed in section 1115, and are not able to be waived under the section 1115 waiver authority.
According to the Heritage Foundation, 2.9 million fewer children lived in poverty in America in 2003, after the welfare reform law was implemented, compared to 1995. Welfare caseloads had also been cut in half.
Other examples of the Obama Administration ignoring the laws enacted by Congress or circumventing the legislative process:
* The Department of Justice announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act.
* The Obama Administration said it would not enforce the deportation of young illegal immigrants, as outlined by the federal immigration law.
* After Congress rejected President Obama's cap-and-trade energy tax plan, President Obama's EPA classified carbon dioxide as a pollutant so it could regulate it under the Clean Air Act.
Rep. Graves has also drafted a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius, which is being signed by other members of Congress, questioning the constitutionality of waiving the work requirements in the 1996 welfare reform law.